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Gates McFadden on “House of Gold”

September 22, 2011

EST/LA artistic director Gates McFadden told me recently over lunch about her upcoming House of God. She called it a dark comedy with a poignant bent. The unsolved murder of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey inspired East Coast playwright Gregory Moss to pen the work, which opens October 22 at Atwater Village Theatre. (Low priced previews begin Oct. 15.)

McFadden directs the piece – a scathing critique of our culture, she says. “It reveals dark truths about our values and, ultimately, ourselves.” The play reminded her of her own childhood and she draws parallels to her Dr. Beverly Crusher character on Star Trek TNG. “Like the character in the play, I was the ‘pleaser’ child-performer. As an adult, my role on Star Trek was my parents’ dream come true, but for me, it brought back a lot of childhood ambivalence.”

In the company’s press release, McFadden adds, “In American culture, reality TV is more real than real life. Parents think it’s normal to exploit and humiliate their children on camera, if only to give their own dreary lives more meaning—‘my video got over a million hits on You Tube!’ Children either receive too much parental attention or not enough. Something horrible in the news? Goodie! Let’s get the details.”

In House of Gold, Jacqueline Wright (recently seen in EST/LA productions of Mlle. God and Tree) heads the ensemble as a young beauty pageant contestant who must constantly remain the perfect living doll for her obsessive “live-the-American-Dream” parents, and Alex Davis (Alex Davis: Man of the Year, his interdisciplinary one-man show about life as the child of iconic actor Brad Davis and as a trans man) portrays teen misfit Jasper, neglected by his parents and living in the margins. Denise Crosby (reuniting with McFadden for the first time since they co-starred on Star Trek: TNG) plays the pageant mom, known only as “Woman” in the script, while Tony Pasqualini (playwright and actor: Loyalties at Pacific Resident Theatre) is “Man.” Graham Sibley (Crack Whore Galore) is “Joseph M. Lonely”; Keith Arthur Bolden (Mlle. God at EST/LA, Neighbors at the Matrix) is the detective who wants to play the hero; and Chris Arvan, Josh Heine, Matt Little and Eric Schulman are the “Apollonian Boys,” entitled white males who function as a chorus of Ambercrombie and Fitch furies.

“Our space at Atwater Village will be used in some interesting and non-traditional ways that we hope will surprise audiences,” McFadden concludes. “I’m working closely with an animator, Drew Christie, whose work inspires me and with whom I’ve always wanted to collaborate. The show incorporates his distinctive animation and cartoons, as well as video, projections, and a lot of fun choreography. We’re calling it a kaleidoscopic comedy.”

Set design for House of Gold is by Kurt Boetcher; animation is by Drew Christie; video design is by Alexander Mibecki; projection design is by William Parks; lighting design is by Elizabeth Harper; sound design is by David B. Marling; costume design is by Christina Haatainen-Jones; and choreography is by Gates McFadden.

House of Gold premiered at Woolly Mammoth in Washington, D.C. and recently opened at the  Mousson d’Été International Theatre Festival in Pont-a-Mousson, France.

House of Gold runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm and 7pm, October 22 through December 4. Four preview performances take place on October 15, 16 and 21 on the same schedule. General admission is $25; Sunday matinees at 2 pm are pay-what-you-can; previews are $15. Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA is located in the Atwater Village Theatre complex at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free.  For reservations and information, call 323-644-1929 or go to www.ensemblestudiotheatrela.org.

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